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6:59 PM Mon, Oct. 15th

Council squawks at lame duck director

Weir resurrects railroad transport center proposal

KINGMAN - Since City Council voted several weeks ago to eliminate Jeff Weir's economic development department and director position beginning July 1, he's come to Council with several action items - from the Strategic Plan to an ordinance allowing the city to enter into sales tax incentive agreements with developers.

Monday night, Weir set up a Powerpoint presentation with findings compiled by a private firm on the potential to attract a freight center from Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad.

His failure to show any substantial progress on this potentiality was one of the factors noted by Council members before a majority of them voted to axe Weir's department in early May.

Senior Associate of TransCore David Chambers gave the findings of a "potential to be established" international freight processing center in Kingman, but Council halted the presentation a few slides into his show and called Weir up to the lectern.

Weir was asked if this was the same railroad freight center that he had talked about months ago - the same idea the railroad squashed by denying any potential for such a deal.

"I believe you're the tail wagging the dog," Vice Mayor Dave French said to Weir.

"I'm not wagging anything," Weir rebutted.

"Well, I'm just telling you, they're not interested," French said.

The term, "wag the dog," refers to the joke, "why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail was smarter, the tail would wag the dog."

The metaphor is often interpreted as the public being the dog and the tail being government or powerful officials.

Both French and Mayor Les Byram cited several letters from the railroad asking that the city stop telling the press that a freight center is a possibility, urging the city to either stop looking into it or let the railroad know when these presentations are given.

"All I know is they want us to continue to look for opportunities for them to bring more freight into this area so they can get it into Vegas," Weir said. "They flat said that to us. Now I don't know what they're saying to anyone else ... "

"How can you say that, Jeff?" Councilman Kerry Deering asked. Deering recalled a presentation in the fall of 2006 about the potential of a freight center, but then he said, "I picked up the Sunday paper, it flat-out said that Santa Fe said they never even planned on coming to Kingman to do that. ... So when did these new thoughts happen?"

"I can't give you an exact date," Weir replied, "but I remember sitting right here in this room with representatives asking us to place two projects - asking us to look for trans-loading ... we said we would."

"But without the railroad, you can plan all you want but there's nothing to do ... unless they're a partner with us," Deering said.

Mayor Les Byram read a letter from the railroad written to Weir dated Aug. 2, 2006. It said the railroad had read in the paper last June that the city was talking about the potential for a railroad freight center.

The city indicated "that the railroad was interested in locating a logistics center in Kingman," Byram read.

"'Please communicate with Latoya Finch, retail manager of economic development ... prior to making any statements to the news media about this,'" the letter said.

"Then last Saturday, there is a fax to Dave French (that) says, 'For the record there are no BNSF plans contemplated in design or development regarding intermodal facilities in Kingman.' So I'm really confused what you're saying - that there is some possibility in something like this being developed."

"This was initiated, mayor ... " Weir began.

"- Did we pay for this thing?" the mayor asked.

"I believe the city and the county joined in paying," Weir said.

"OK."

Councilman Tom Spear defended Weir, saying that if the city shows up with a good concept, it would probably get favorable reviews.

"We're not making a decision, we're not making a commitment ... we're exploring an opportunity and the potential to have jobs in this community," he said.

The mayor drew some laughs when Chambers, the TransCore associate, asked if he should continue. Byram asked how long it would take, and Chambers said less than five minutes. "We paid for it, so let's see the rest of it," Byram said